Thursday, 22 October 2015

An Adopted Baby Killed

A respectable middle class woman in Mossley Hill who had lost  a baby of her own adopted another one, only to kill during a spell of insanity.

Early in 1903 Elizabeth Sturgeon, the 36 year old wife of a drapers buyer who lived at 7 Dudley Road, gave birth to a stillborn baby. Devastated by this loss, she sought to adopt one and in June of that year answered an advert in the Liverpool Echo from someone in Litherland looking to take a baby off their hands.


Sturgeon showed great affection for the four month old baby girl who she christened Mabel. In early July she visited her parents in Lincolnshire where she acquired the services of a girl called Alice Porter who returned to Liverpool with her to help as a housekeeper and nanny.

On Tuesday 28th July Sturgeon acted very strangely, taking the unusual step of sending Alice to buy gin for her. She had a lie down and told her husband that she was in a vile temper, then wrote a letter to her parents saying that she was going to have a 'last walk' due to the cruelty of her husband who had tried to strangle her so he could live with a flower girl.

Sturgeon took Alice and Mabel out with her at 4pm on a long walk that ended up with them sat under a hedge in a field near Mossley Hill church The baby was crying in a strange fashion and Alice expressed concern to Sturgeon that she may suffocate the child when she put a handkerchief in her mouth to try and stop this. Alice then fell asleep after Mabel had gone quiet, having been given a small drop of rum by Sturgeon. 

In the morning, Sturgeon offered Alice a shilling as an inducement to walk across the parapet of a railway bridge. She did so but when halfway across she fell thirty feet, but was lucky to suffer only a sprained ankle.  Sturgeon told Alice to remain where she was and she would return the baby home then get help, but she was gone some time. When she did return, she told Alice that a woman was looking after Mabel and when she could find no trace her, reported the baby to the police as missing.

Nobody local had seen anything untoward and after speaking with her husband Bill Sturgeon over the letters his wife had written police arrested her on suspicion of murder on the Wednesday evening. A search of the area where they had last been seen was launched and Mabel's body was found the following morning a few inches underground in a lime pit off Solomon's Lane (where Geoffrey Hughes playing fields now are), her neck covered in stab wounds. 

Soon after the body was found, Sturgeon was remanded for a week at the police court. The inquest on 7th August heard evidence that she had been suffering hallucinations and was mentally deranged at the time of the tragedy. The coroner's court being unable to make a ruling on her state of mind, a verdict of wilful murder was returned and she was committed for trial at the assizes, 

Sturgeon was well dressed when she appeared at the assizes on 4th December, where the prosecution did not contest the medical evidence that she was insane. Justice Ridley then ordered that she be detained at His Majesty's Pleasure. Remarkably, instructed by her husband, Sturgeon's solicitor made an immediate application for her discharge, stating that the murder took place in about of temporary insanity that was now cured. However this was refused by the Home Secretary and she was removed to Broadmoor. She was released a few years later however and in the 1911 census is shown as living with Bill in Britannia Road, Wallasey.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Woman Cuts Her Husband Instead of the Bread

A woman whose abusive husband berated her for not mending his trousers properly stabbed him to death after he then told her to cut more bread for their children's supper.

On 2nd June 1903 at around 10pm, twelve year old Mary Lyon returned to her home in Salisbury Street, Everton after playing out. She was then asked to make sure her mother's friend Margaret Constantine got back to her home in Birchfield Street safely as she was drunk.

Mary saw Margaret back home, leaving her mother Catherine in Salisbury Street with her father Charlie and eight year old brother Charles. Both her parents had been drinking and Charlie said to Catherine 'You have not mended my trousers right.' She ignored him, leading to Charlie slapping her in the face and saying 'Cut more bread for the children.' With their son Charles watching in horror, Catherine pushed her husband away whilst holding the bread knife, which stabbed him in the chest causing him to fall onto the sofa.

Catherine ran into  the street screaming and a passer by named Henry Dowling came to see what was going on. She took him inside and Charlie was lying on the sofa. Young Charles said 'My mama done it' and Catherine responded 'I did not mean to do it.' Mary then returned from Birchfield Street and encountered the tragic scene.

Charles was pronounced dead on arrival at the Royal Infirmary, where the post mortem established that the wound to the heart was five inches deep. Catherine was arrested and admitted she was responsible for the killing, but insisted she had not meant to cause any harm. 

The inquest returned a verdict of wilful murder and Catherine was committed to the assizes for trial. However the Grand Jury, which carried out a preliminary review of the facts, decided that she should only stand trial for manslaughter. She was found guilty and sentenced by Mr Justice Bigham to three years penal servitude.

The Blundellsands Tragedy

A Crosby woman who killed two of her children and then attempted suicide herself was detained at His Majesty's Pleasure

Shortly before 9am on the morning of Sunday 31st May 1903 Joseph Cannell, a journeyman plasterer living at Brighton Vale in Blundellsands, went out for a walk with his three elder children leaving his wife Eleanor in charge of the youngest two. Joseph did not speak to Eleanor before going out which wasn't unusual, but there was nothing normal about the scene which greeted him when they returned at 2pm. 

Eleanor was in an excited state and told her husband that she had drowned their two youngest children. When Joseph saw that they weren't in their cots, he ran into the kitchen where he found eighteen month old Alfred and six month old Eleanor lying face down in a tub that was usually used to wash clothes. They were both dead and when Joseph went back to his wife's bedroom, she was trying to strangle herself with a rope that she had tied to a bedpost.

Joseph managed to cut the rope from his wife's neck but she ran off with the knife threatening to cut her throat. When Joseph managed to get the knife from her, Eleanor pleaded to be allowed to go to the beach to drown herself then tried to drink boiling water, causing her to vomit profusely. 

A doctor arrived and managed to sedate 38 year old Eleanor who was then taken to hospital. A letter was found in her clothing which read addressed to her father which read 'I cannot live in such trouble, forgive me and don't blame me too much.'

At the inquest on 12th June Joseph told the Coroner Mr Samuel Brighouse how his wife had been acting oddly in recent weeks and he had turned down work on occasions to stay at home and look after her. The day before the killing, he had been in a pub when she threw a glass of beer over him. Eleanor stated that she did what she did as she was upset and a neighbour said she had been erratic recently when the weather was hot. During the proceedings she often wept and cried out for her daughter Jane, who was in the horrible situation of giving evidence against her mother.


A verdict of wilful murder was returned by the coroner's jury and Eleanor then appeared at the County sessions House in William Brown Street, where she was committed to the assizes for trial. On 8th September Dr Price from Walton gaol said that she was unfit to plead and was suffering from melancholia at the time of the tragedy. This was not challenged by the Crown, leading to Justice Bigham ordering that she be detained at His Majesty's Pleasure.

Monday, 12 October 2015

The Altcar Tragedy

A soldier on training at the Altcar camp near Formby was sentenced to death after battering a fellow serviceman after a night out, but was reprieved by the Home Secretary. 

On the afternoon of Saturday 16th May 1903 Private John James and Private Arthur Wilkes of the Royal Welch Fusiliers went out drinking in Formby. They went to several beerhouses before being turned away from the Railway Hotel for being too drunk at around 9pm.

James was 29 years old and had fought in the South African War then served in China, where he received an injury that meant his fighting days were over, but he remained with the regiment as a cook. Wilkes had yet to see any action and was at Altcar with his regiment for musketry training.

The circumstances that led to what happened next will never be known, but 21 year old Wilkes arrived back at camp on his own. At 330am another private, Frederick Boswell, was walking back to the camp along Fisherman's Walk and heard moaning coming from a ditch. On going to investigate, he found James in an insensible state with several wounds on his face. Boswell ran to the camp for help and returned with a Sergeant Jenkins and a stretcher. They took James to the camp hospital but after being laid on  a bed he took his last breaths and died. 

A key find near the scene had been a regimental belt, meaning that somebody at the following mornings parade would be without one. That person was set to be Private Burke, who had reported his belt as missing at 6am when he saw that it wasn't hanging up where it should be. The belt was then found in Wilkes's tent and he became agitated when confronted about it. He was also unable to explain where his regimental trousers were, having been wearing normal ones. This was enough for Sergeant Jenkins to authorise the detention of Wilkes and he was taken to Formby police station.

The following day Wilkes's regimental trousers were found hidden behind a radiator, covered in mud. Wilkes appeared at Birkdale Magistrates Court that day and was remanded having been charged with murder. An inquest opened on the Tuesday at the Railway Hotel, with the Coroner ordering the body to be laid out where it had been found so that the jury could get a full picture of the surroundings. When they went to view it though one member of the jury fainted and had to be taken to hospital, leading to an adjournment of a week.

When the inquest resumed it was at the police buildings in Birkdale. Knowing how much evidence was against him Wilkes decided to issue a statement via Inspector Hodgson. In this he claimed that the two men were on friendly terms whilst walking back but James insisted on returning to try and find more drink. Wilkes said that when he tried to stop him, James's replied 'You will have to go to the front and get some medals on you chest before you can stop me going to town.' He then claimed that James wrestled him to the ground and he had to use his belt to get him off and he had no idea what state he left him in. 

A verdict of wilful murder was returned by the inquest jury and Wilkes was formally committed for trial at the next Liverpool assizes. He appeared before Justice Bigham on 31st July, pleading not guilty on the grounds that he was acting in self defence. However, medical evidence showed that he had not received any injuries and was much stronger than James, who had a fractured skull, crushed nose and sixteen wounds on his face, hands and fingers. in summing up Justice Bigham said that if the jury was satisfied that it was Wilkes who carried out the act then it was a 'wicked and brutal murder.'

Wilkes was found guilty by the jury who recommended mercy on account of his youth. The judge said he would pass this on but that he should not hold out much hope of a reprieve. A petition was presented to the Home Secretary by Wilkes's solicitors who were based in North John Street but time was running out fast with the execution fixed for Tuesday 18th August and no news forthcoming. Finally on the 15th August a letter was received by the Governor of Walton Gaol saying that the sentence had been commuted to penal servitude for life.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Habitually Abusive Husband Kills Wife With Poker

A man who had been convicted three times for battering his wife was convicted of manslaughter after he killed her, but was given a lenient sentence by today's standards. 

In 1903 a 52 year old labourer named William Smith lived with his wife Isabella in Peach Street, occupying the parlour and two cellars of a house. Their daughter Mary Wyness, her husband and young children lived int he other rooms. Mr and Mrs Smith both drank regularly and Mary would often hear her father beating her mother following arguments.

On the afternoon of 15th February that year the couple both got drunk but nothing seemed unusual when Mary saw her parents in the afternoon. In the evening though she heard her mother nagging her father as he had not shared any betting winnings with her, instead spending them on drinks for other people. 

At 330am the following morning Mary was awoken by moans coming from the cellar and went to investigate. She found her mother lying face down, unconscious and covered in blood. She went upstairs to the parlous were her father was asleep and he helped her lift Isabella onto the sofa. Smith went out and fetched a policeman himself, bringing him back to the house and saying that his wife had fallen onto the ashpan. 

The officer was suspicious of Smith's version of events and took him into custody, lodging him at the Prescot Street Bridewell. A doctor who carried out a post mortem felt that the injuries to Isabella's chest could not have been caused by a fall and would have required 'extraordinary force.' Smith then admitted that he had struck her with a poker but not intended to cause great harm.

After an inquest returned a verdict of wilful murder, Smith was committed for trial at the assizes where he appeared before Justice Lawrence on 8th May. The jury returned a verdict of manslaughter on the grounds that Smith had been provoked by his wife's excessive drinking. A neighbour had told the court that a few days before the killing it was Mary's wedding anniversary and Isabella had drank nine pints of beer.

The judge said he agreed with the jury's verdict and even though Smith had been convicted of assault on three previous occasions for battering his wife, a sentence of just twelve years penal servitude was imposed.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Mocked Man's Hatchet Revenge

A man whose patience snapped after he was mocked and beaten by his partner, causing him to hit her with a hatchet and cut her throat, was found guilty of manslaughter and jailed for ten years.


On 25th August 1902 Francis Burke returned to his lodgings in Gladstone Street after work to find that Catherine Daly, with whom he cohabited, was not at home. After his landlord John Shingler said that he had no idea where Catherine was and his sister Lizzie, who lived nearby, said she had not seen him, Francis went back home and made some chips for his tea. While he was eating them Catherine returned, sporting a black eye. 



When asked how she got her injury Catherine, who was quite drunk, replied that she had been fighting with a woman named Mary Daly, the wife of her brother. John Shingler's wife tended to the eye whilst Francis sat on the front steps drinking some beer that he had sent out for. Catherine then started hitting him about the head and carried on drinking along with Lizzie who had since came round to see if everything was okay. Lizzie then joined Catherine in mocking Francis for not doing anything when he was being repeatedly slapped.



Eventually Francis's patience snapped and he got up and threw Catherine into a chair, but this didn't stop her getting up and hitting him again. After Lizzie left Francis and Catherine went to bed but in the early hours John Shingler was woken up by the couple arguing and he then heard a cry of 'murder'. On running to investigate he found that Catherine was lying on her back covered in blood and Francis was attempting to cut his own throat with a carving knife. 



Other lodgers managed to get the knife from Francis while Mr Shingler ran to the Northern Dispensary for a doctor and also found a policeman. Catherine was still alive and pointed to Francis when asked who had cut her. She was taken to the Northern Hospital where she died on 1st September, having been able to make a deposition stating that she had been hit over the head with a hatchet and then had her throat cut. Francis was himself close to death and remained in the Workhouse Hospital in Brownlow Hill for a month, on one occasion ripping the bandages from his throat. He was not considered fit to be committed for trial for murder until 2nd October.



Francis appeared at the assizes at St George's Hall on 5th December, where he said he recalled nothing from the moment he threw Catherine into the chair. After twenty minutes deliberation the jury found him guilty of manslaughter on the grounds of extreme provocation. He was then sentenced by Justice Jelf to penal servitude for ten years.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Killed by a China Dog

A woman who drank no more than some tea was killed when a drunken neighbour came to her home uninvited and threw a china ornament at her.

On Saturday 21st May 1859 William Evans, a blacksmith, and his 31 year old wife Sarah were sat in the living room of their Blenheim Street home drinking tea with some neighbours. Without warning Alice McAllister, who lived opposite, came into the house in a drunken state and began shouting obscenities, only to be thrown out by William.

Blenheim Street from www.liverpoolpicturebook.com
McAllister soon returned and picked up a candlestick which she threw at William, but he managed to duck and avoid it. His wife Sarah though was not so lucky, being hit on the head by a china dog ornament that was thrown with great force. McAllister then punched Sarah as she lay on the floor in an insensible state with blood pouring from her head.


William managed to fend McAllister off with a poker to prevent her doing any more harm and Sarah was taken to the dispensary where her wounds were dressed. She remained under the treatment of Dr Campion but she died the following Friday, 27th May. A post mortem revealed that there was a compound fracture of the skull and other injuries caused by great violence. 


When she was arrested McAllister said that the death was none of her doing and that William had struck his wife with a poker. However an inquest before Mr P F Curry returned a verdict of manslaughter against her, which led to her being committed to the assizes for trial. When she appeared before Baron Watson on 17th August, neighbours present testified to having seen Sarah get hit by the ornament, leading to a guilty verdict being returned. McAllister was then sentenced to three years penal servitude.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Free From Jail to Kill his Wife


A man who had served a three year jail sentence for stabbing his wife killed her just six weeks after his release and was found guilty of manslaughter. 

In the early hours of Tuesday 8th October 1901 Ellen Timlin was asleep at her lodgings in 42 Baptist Street when she was awoken by another member of the household, 32 year old Thomas McAllister. He was raging and told Ellen that he had killed his wife and would kill somebody else.He then started kicking out at Ellen but stopped when his wife Catherine returned.

Thomas told Catherine he was sorry for what he had done and she replied that she was a bad woman. The couple then went upstairs with Thomas saying he would look at the wound, which had been caused with a pocket knife, after a cup of tea. He later came back down and told Ellen that it was 'only the scratch of a pin' and that he had washed it and covered it with a plaster.

On the Thursday night Catherine was complaining of severe pains and admitted herself to the workhouse hospital, telling staff there that she had been separating a fight. The next night her condition had deteriorated and a detective inspector was called in to see her. She now said that she had been walking with Thomas's mother at the corner of Springfield and Christian Streets and that he had stabbed her in a fit of jealousy. A magistrate's clerk was summoned to take a formal deposition but by the time he arrived Catherine had died.

A post mortem revealed that the cause of death was haemorrhage caused by the wound which had punctured Catherine's left lung. When Thomas was arrested he said 'I am as innocent as a child, she went out on Wednesday to separate a fight and when she came back she complained of a pain underneath her breast.' At the inquest Ellen Timlin described Catherine as a'hard working steady woman' whilst Thomas was someone with a 'hot temper who is given to drink.' The Deputy Coroner Mr Gibson said there was no provocation to justify reducing the verdict to manslaughter and on this direction a verdict of wilful murder was returned.


At the Liverpool Assizes on 3rd December Ellen Timlin repeated the evidence that she had given at the inquest. After ninety minutes deliberation the jury found Thomas guilty of manslaughter leading to cries from Thomas who begged for mercy 'for the sake of my poor old mother and two orphaned sisters, the shock will kill her.' 

Mr Justice Bucknill however was in no mood for lenient sentencing, especially as Thomas had only come out of prison six weeks before the killing, having served  a three year sentence for cutting and wounding his wife. Referring to him as a 'worthless drunken blackguard' he said that the jury had been merciful enough and imposed a sentence of fifteen years penal servitude.


Monday, 5 October 2015

Hatchet Killing

A woman in Everton who killed a man by hitting him over the head with a hatchet was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment. 

On the morning of 8th July 1901 coal heaver Luke Crean went to Canada Dock to try and find some work but was unsuccessful. Him and his friends then spent several hours drinking in pubs before going to the home of one of them in Adelaide Place around 3.30pm.


A disturbance broke out in the street between two rival religious factions and Crean went out to get involved and he ended up fighting with a man named Thomas Jenkins whose wife also got involved, striking him with a slipper.  There was a large crowd watching including 24 year old Annie Turner, who was pointing to her chest and shouting 'True Blue' and 'No Surrender.' She then went into her house and got a hatchet, hitting Crean on the head with two blows. 

As shouts of police went up Crean and Jenkins fell into the cellar and when an officer pulled him out of there, he managed to escape and run away. Turner returned to her house with the hatchet and despite being a Protestant herself said to a neighbour 'I have helped to kill one Orangeman and I will kill another.' Crean did not manage to get far, collapsing with blood coming out of his ear. He was taken to the Northern Hospital where he slipped into unconsciousness and died that evening.

An inquest on 10th July returned a verdict of wilful murder against Turner and she was committed for trial at the next assizes, which were just three weeks away. On 1st August she appeared before Mr Justice Ridley, her defence counsel arguing that Crean's injuries were a a result of the fall. The jury found her guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter and she was sentenced to fifteen years penal servitude.



Who Administered the Fatal Kick

When a woman was kicked to death in Everton in 1901, the person charged with her killing was acquitted as the prosecution were unable to prove who had administered the fatal kick.


On the afternoon of 14th May 1901 Mary McConville, a 29 year old unmarried woman, drank several gills of beer at her home in  Haigh Street with her brother Arthur and friend Annie Denham. At around 7.30pm Henry Ratcliffe, a sailor that lived with Mary when he was not at sea came around with some friends but didn't join the others in drinking.



What happened next nobody can be sure, but police had to be called due to Mary ending up lying on the floor in a pool of blood. A doctor from the dispensary was also called and he pronounced that Mary was dead when he arrived at 9.30pm. Arthur told officers that Ratcliffe was responsible and he was taken into custody, denying all knowledge of the crime. 



At the inquest the following day Arthur told the Coroner that Ratcliffe had hit his sister three or four times in the face. He then said that when Mary fell to the floor Ratcliffe began kicking at her abdomen and when he tried to intervene, Ratcliffe said to him 'You are not going to boss this house.' Arthur claimed that Ratcliffe wanted to fight him in the street but he refused and he instead went to William Henry Street to find a policeman.



Mary's friend Annie Denham also gave evidence at the inquest, but all she could recall was that Ratcliffe had knocked Mary down. However a neighbour called Margaret Worrall said that when Annie had come out of the house she had said that it was Arthur who had carried out the assault. The others present said that they had seen Ratcliffe push Mary to the floor but that he had not kicked her.



The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder and 28 year old Ratcliffe was committed for trial at the Liverpool assizes, where he appeared before Mr Justice Ridley on 2nd August. The doctor who carried out the post mortem confirmed that a kick had caused the death but in directing the jury, the judge said there was no corroborating  evidence of who had carried it out. The jury found Ratcliffe not guilty and he was discharged from the dock.


Sunday, 4 October 2015

Drunken Stabbing of a Son in Law

In 1901 a man who killed his son in law during a drunken fight was told by the judge that his crime was 'as near as to murder as could be' after being convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter. 

Patrick Finnegan, a 47 year old labourer, lived with his wife in Back Portland Street, off Scotland Road. His daughter was married to a marine fireman named William Carr and they lived in Portland Street, the two houses being separated from each other only by a yard. 

On the evening of Saturday 23rd March that year Carr returned home drunk and then went into the yard towards his parents in law's house looking for his wife. A quarrel broke out between the two men leading to Finnegan having cuts to his face and he went off in search of a policeman. 

An officer was located in Limekiln Lane and brought back to Back Portland Street, where Carr was talking to Finnegan's wife. The policeman persuaded Carr to return to his own home then took Finnegan to a dispensary for some treatment to his face wound. After this he went to the police and demanded that Carr be arrested, but was sent on his way.

At around quarter to one in the morning, Finnegan and his wife knocked on Carr's door and were let in by a lodger called Mary Uriel. Finnegan went upstairs to see Carr leaving his wife downstairs talking to the lodger, then soon afterwards the couple left. They were soon joined by their daughter Mrs Carr, who had been too afraid to return home to her husband and had gone to sleep on a step in Portland Street before being woken by a passing policeman.

At around 5am Mary heard moaning noises coming from Carr's bedroom which was directly above hers. She went to the Finnegans for help and Mrs Carr returned with her, finding her husband on the landing with a wound on his neck. The bedclothes were bloodsoaked and there was a trail of blood leading to where he had fallen. He was rushed to the Northern Hospital but pronounced dead on arrival, an artery having been cut.

On being questioned Finnegan claimed he had only gone to Carr's bedroom to look for his daughter, but he was unable to explain the blood on his own clothes or the bloodstained knife found in his own house. 
After being charged with murder Finnegan appeared at the assizes on 10th May. His defence counsel Mr Madden said that if Carr had been arrested for drunkenness earlier on then the tragedy had not occurred. Saying that 'all parties were deprived of their reason' Mr Madden maintained that Finnegan had initially only gone to Carr's room to look for his daughter. 

It took the jury ten minutes to find Finnegan guilty of manslaughter. In passing a sentence of twenty years penal servitude, Justice Wills said that the case was as near to murder as manslaughter could be.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Light Sentence For Killing Sister in Law

A man who killed his sister in law then went on the run was given an extremely light sentence in the circumstances. The judge commented that there had been a good deal of provocation although the killing would probably be seen in a different light today.

Tailor Patrick Ryan spent the evening of 5th May 1858 drinking at his home in Hygeia Street along with a man named Kennedy and his wife's sister Catherine Fennell. Catherine asked Ryan for some money which he refused to give her, leading to her reaching into his waistcoat pocket and taking out a small photographic portrait of a young woman. Catherine then taunted Ryan about the woman, saying to him why did he need to look elsewhere when he had a wife and children at home.

After Catherine refused to give the photograph back Ryan threatened to kick her, leading to her taking a quart jug and trying to hit him over the head, only for Kennedy to get between them. 

The following day Ryan and Kennedy returned to the house and Catherine was coming down the stairs with her face quite red, but she denied being drunk. Ryan told her he didn't want her there any more but she refused to go and an argument broke out, during which Kennedy left. At 7pm, the pair were arguing in the street leading to Mrs Ryan coming to the door and pleading with them to come in and not make a show of themselves in front of the neighbours.

As Catherine was going in to the house behind Ryan he turned around and kicked her, causing her to lose her footing and fall down some steps. He then picked up a piece of wood and struck her on the back of the head. Catherine was helped into the house by her sister then her hair was cut off and the wound washed. On the Saturday evening though she began to have convulsions and she was admitted to hospital where she died on the Monday. 

A post mortem revealed the cause of death as extravasation of blood on the brain and a fracture to the skull below the wound, which was about a quarter of an inch in length. On 11th May an inquest was held before the Coroner Mr P F Curry. When the verdict of manslaughter was returned Mrs Ryan cried out, saying that her husband had been like a father to Catherine for over six years. 

A warrant was issued for Ryan's arrest and he remained at large until early 1859. When he finally appeared at the Liverpool assizes, he pleaded guilty and in light of Catherine's provocation he was sentenced to six months imprisonment with hard labour by Justice Willes.


Friday, 2 October 2015

Child Killing at the Workhouse

The death of a one week old baby at the hands of his mother and subsequent punishment in 1859 emphasised just how little value was placed on the lives of young children then.

On 11th February that year Jane Anderson, a 26 year old pauper residing at the Liverpool workhouse, gave birth to a healthy baby boy who she named Robert. One week later on the 18th of the month the baby boy was heard to be screaming very loudly and the following morning workhouse officials noticed that he was bruised.

When Jane was asked how the bruising occurred she said she did not know and the baby was taken from her and placed in the charge of a nurse. A week later he died and a post mortem by the house surgeon Dr Leather revealed the cause of death to be congestion of the lungs caused by violence. 

Jane was charged with murder and appeared at the Liverpool assizes on 31st March. In summing up, Mr Justice Wills told the jury they had to decide whether Jane had used violence towards her baby with the intention of causing harm or in the hope of quietening him. After deliberation they took a more lenient view and found her guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter. She was then sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment with hard labour.